A spending freeze, or a ‘no-spend challenge’ is an awesome way to save a lot of money in a short amount of time. It’s a set timeframe where you challenge yourself not to spend any money. You’re going cold turkey and spending the absolute bare minimum.
They can be difficult and they’re not a whole lot of fun, but when you see how much you’re saving it’ll all be worth it. The secret to saving a ton of money with your spending freeze is to plan ahead and get a strategy together.
Follow this easy-peasy 3-step process for planning your spending freeze.
How to do a spending freeze:
- Step 1: Determine your goal for how much you want to save;
- Step 2: Commit to a time frame;
- Step 3: Decide how strict your spending freeze will be.
By preparing, you can set yourself up to save $1,000 in one month. Keep reading for tons of amazing tips to help you nail your spending freeze!
The cure for overspending
I’m not a frugal person by any stretch of the imagination. I’m actually rather spendy, especially after a bad day. It’s easy for me to turn to comfort spending or comfort eating. During those times, I spend more than I should, but I want to treat myself to nice things.
But just like a bad mood tends to spiral out of control, so does your spending. It started off as just those gorgeous ankle boots you’ve been lusting after for months. But suddenly you’re surrounded by piles of luxury notebooks and covered in stickers (or is that just me?). When your spending is out of control, you’re putting way more pressure on your budget.
The more stressed your budget becomes, the more you feel that you’ll never afford the nice things you want. I get it. I’ve totally been there and I like spoiling myself with nice things too. But here’s what I’ve learned about money and living the life you truly want.
You can have it all, just not all at once.
It’s like ice cream - it’s so good but if you don’t pace yourself and you stuff it all in your mouth at once, you get brain freeze.
How to do a spending freeze 3 simple steps
Step 1: Determine your goal for how much you want to save & why (be specific!)
The first thing you need to do is to get clear on why you’re doing a spending freeze and how much money you’re aiming to save. This will keep you motivated because it gives you a bullseye to aim for.
Your goals are yours. They’re going to depend on you and the life you want to live. Are you struggling to get out of debt? Have you been daydreaming about a trip to Paris? Do you yearn for those cute earrings you’ve been eying for months? Does your home decor need a refresh?
A spending freeze is also a great way to build your emergency fund because you can save heaps of money super fast.
Whatever your goal is, keep it crystal clear in your mind. Make a Pinterest board or an old school vision board. Turn it into your digital wallpaper or keep a picture of it at your desk. This is your ‘why’, this is what will make it all worth it.
Step 2: Commit to a timeframe
I know, a spending freeze for any amount of time isn’t exactly a pleasant thing to do. But the benefits waiting for you are so good, I promise you it’ll be worth it if you can stick it out! Before getting started, you need to know what you’re in for and how long you need to plan for. There’s no set rule on how long your spending freeze should be, but here are some tips to help you figure it out.
How long should your spending freeze last?
The most common timeframe for a spending freeze is one month, but let me tell you from my own experience - that ain’t easy! Especially if you’re a spender like me, it’s crucial not to sip more champagne than you can swallow. Start small and work your way up. The more manageable your spending freeze is, the more likely you’ll succeed.
This is super important, so write it down. If you make it too hard on yourself, you’re setting yourself up to fail. It's going to rock your confidence, make you feel like crap and send you back into spending mode.
Need another reason to stick with manageable chunks of time? A spending freeze is like yo-yo dieting, if you’re not careful. Sure, you can avoid spending money for 2 weeks, piece of cake, right? But if it's too much for you, you’re going to compensate by overspending the second your freeze ends.
I recommend starting out with just 7 days. Nice and easy. Once you’ve become a pro at that, increase it to two weeks, then three weeks and then 1 month.
Step 3: Decide how strict your spending freeze will be - which categories should you include?
Time for a truthbomb: the more strict your spending freeze is, the more money you’re going to save.
Cut out everything except bills, utilities, emergencies and medical expenses. Everything else can wait.
Spending that’s allowed includes:
- Rent or mortgage
- Minimum debt payments
- Electricity & gas
- Fuel or public transport to get to work
- Emergencies (but real emergencies, not “I-need-that-cookie-now emergencies”)
- Medical expenses
- Doctor visits
- Prescription medicines
- Other medicines in case you get sick.
If you could freeze all these expenses, you would. But you can’t. Skipping these expenses will cause a lot more problems than it solves.
If you’re looking for spending to freeze, here’s where you can start:
- Netflix and other streaming services (hello, boredom! But you can find hours of free entertainment on YouTube.);
- Clothing and accessories;
- Skincare, cosmetics and beauty products;
- Eating out and entertainment like going out for drinks or to a movie (yes - that includes date night! But don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to have a fun date without spending any money);
- Any fun or hobby-related expenses;
- Gym memberships and subscriptions;
- Facials and salon visits.
Here’s some inspiration to help you cut your expenses down.
Should you freeze grocery spending?
There’s a bit of flexibility when it comes to groceries. You still need to eat and food is a big cost in your budget. Food costs also have a tendency to get out of control pretty fast. Especially if you eat your feelings like I do.
The best thing for your spending freeze is to cook from your pantry, fridge or freezer and use up what you have on hand. But that doesn't work for everyone. Mr Bear and I keep only a week’s worth of food at home most of the time. And it’s because I’m a picky eater and the meal plan I created with excitement looks a little boring when I actually have to eat it.
For your spending freeze, you can either:
Cook with what you have on hand and only buy staples. If you’re missing something else, you’ll just need to make it work; or
Meal plan ahead of time so you have all your meals sorted out for your spending freeze. Only buy what you need, but you’re not allowed to buy any more groceries during your spending freeze.
Make meal planning budget friendly & easy!
Your FREE meal planning workbook includes:
- Inventory lists for your pantry, freezer & fridge;
- Weekly meal planning sheet;
- Recipe cards;
- Shopping list;
- Dividers for your recipe binder!
6 Reasons to try a spending freeze
If you’re on the fence, here’s a little push to get you started with your spending freeze. I keep going on about how awesome they are and here’s why.
Get competitive with your spending freeze
Let your competitive streak take control! It’s really easy to turn a spending freeze into a super fun challenge or competition. Getting competitive makes it a bajillion times more fun and pushes you to save even more.
You work hard for your money. And when you can’t spend that money to buy things you like, it can seem like there’s no point going to work every day. Trust me - I totally get it! You want your life to be more than just going to work to pay the bills. Why not have a little fun and de-stress while you’re at it? Get some friends involved and turn this thing into a competition!
Swap bad spending habits for good saving habits
Your spending freeze will help you break bad spending habits and build up some good saving habits. Even if you’re not the most frugal person, you’ll notice a few new frugal habits after completing a spending freeze. These don’t have to be huge things like churning your own butter. It could be as simple as turning off the lights when you leave a room or taking shorter showers.
Find new ways to save money in your everyday life
It’s a bit of a shock to the system but a spending freeze is an amazing way to really take control of your spending. Since you can’t spend any money, you’re forced to make do and think about whether you need to spend money.
Before you know it, you’ll be coming up with cool and creative ideas to save money while still enjoying your life.
When you limit what you have you allow your creativity to blossom.
I’m lucky enough that my parents did a good job teaching me the value of money. And since I like to be an A+ student, I took that lesson to heart
As a child, I didn’t want to ask my parents for toys that I thought were too expensive. So, I started making them instead. I don’t know how but I got my pudgy little hands on a piece of cardboard. I folded it, cut it and coloured it in and turned it into a clipboard. The stationery addiction started early with me.
Shop your stash and use what you have
I get it, you’re a shopper, like me. The novelty and fun of having something new to add to your ever growing collection is so tempting. But you can’t buy new things like you used to when you’re on a spending freeze.
Instead, you’ll find yourself revisiting some old favourites you’d already purchased. This is an awesome way to ‘shop your stash’ and appreciate the things you already have.
Get your budget back on track
Everyone’s budget goes off the rails from time to time. It’s totally okay and super normal. Mine goes a little crazy sometimes too, and I’m a professional accountant! You’re human and sometimes the budget just takes a backseat to everything else that’s going on in your life.
This happens to me when I’m feeling really emotional or having a bad day. After coming out of a shopping spree, a spending freeze will help you get your budget back on track. It’s like a good workout after pizza night.
How much will this suck?
Let me be honest with you. This is going to suck quite a bit, especially at first. I like sitting around with a face mask, surrounded by piles of cute notebooks and stickers. The idea of a spending freeze doesn’t scream fun to me either.
Spending money can feel like an addiction. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. But once you see savings (which takes one day) it becomes an irresistible challenge to see how much you can save.
It’s not supposed to be easy, but it'll be worth it. Here are some great tips and tricks to help you make sure you save money and have a successful spending freeze.
7 Tips & tricks for a successful spending freeze
Tell everyone and find an accountability buddy
Accountability is a huge thing. We do things differently when we know someone is watching. It’s easy to load up your cart and check out in the middle of the night. You’re binge watching Netflix in your undies and no one is watching. Been there, done that!
But when you have someone to answer to, you want to do your best at the task at hand. The same goes with your spending freeze. Tell your friends and family about your spending freeze. They'll keep you accountable and help you stay on track.
When you have no accountability, doing something you know you shouldn’t is an adrenaline rush. But when you’re accountable, doing something you shouldn’t makes you feel guilty.
It’s a powerful way to keep yourself accountable for the goals you set at the beginning of your spending freeze.
Make an anti-shopping wishlist instead of spending money
I know you’re going to want to spend money during your spending freeze. Believe me, I do too. Suddenly it all becomes more tempting! A top tip for keeping on track is to make a wishlist of all the things you want but you don’t buy.
This helps you in a few key ways:
- It teaches you to become a patient spender. You’re forced to stop before you check out and wait. You might find a better alternative or decide that you don’t want it anymore.
- It shows you how much money you’re saving. Instead of checking out, write down your potential buy along with it’s price. This is an anti-shopping list: a list of all the things you aren’t buying. It’s a list of how you’re saving money instead of spending it. Seeing your anti-shopping list grow boosts your confidence and keeps you motivated.
- It helps you spoil yourself...when your spending freeze is over. Since we’re shoppers, our wishlists are a great resource for treating ourselves from time to time. When you have room in your budget, give yourself an allowance for spending money. Then, look over your list and find something to spoil yourself with.
Make it hard to spend money
In this Internet age, spending money is way too easy. I prefer to do most of my shopping from the comfort of my couch and in my pajamas. We can shop 24/7 from anywhere and anytime, local or international with a few clicks. The world is at your fingertips and ready to be added to your cart.
But when the world is trying to get you to spend your money, it can be hard to resist. You need to make spending money too hard for you to bother with it. Try disconnecting your Apple Pay and removing the Amazon app from your phone. Or tell your phone to forget your passwords and unsubscribe from promotional emails.
Still too easy? Here are 6 great tips for helping you control your spending and making it hard to spend money. I’ve used these easy methods over and over again to make it hard to spend and easy to save.
Keep a reminder of your goal close by
This isn’t a donut so we aren’t going to sugar coat it. This is going to be hard. It’s going to suck. You’ll want to quit. But you can’t. You need to keep reminding yourself of your goal and keep thinking about why you’re doing this.
Your motivation is a powerful thing. It’ll get you started and keep you going when it doesn’t feel worth it or it feels too hard.
Here are some ways to keep yourself motivated:
- Put a sticker on your debit or credit card telling yourself to stop!
- Keep a photo of your goal in your wallet to remind yourself of what you’re giving up to spend money.
- Change your wallpapers to a picture of your goal - phone, laptop, iPad, watch - let the goal follow you around.
Get your family and friends on board
Your spending freeze is going to be so much easier if you get your family and friends on board. Not only will they keep you accountable but they’ll also support you in your goal. It’ll be easier to say ‘no, sorry I can’t do that because I’m on a spending freeze’ or ‘it’s not in my budget right now’.
An even better tip is to get some of your friends to do their own spending freeze! Turn it into a competition - whoever lasts the longest, wins!
It’s an awesome way to have some fun while you all save money. And it gets you opening up and talking to your closest friends about money and your goals.
Transfer your savings first
A super cool trick is to turn your spending freeze upside down. Instead of freezing your spending and saving whatever you can, save your money first and make do with what’s left.
You’ll need to check in with your budget first to see how much you’ll be saving during your spending freeze. Transfer those savings out of your transaction account and into your savings.
Then, during your spending freeze, you’ll have to make it work with what’s left in your transaction account. You’ll definitely need to determine the length of your spending freeze before you do this.
Plan fun & free activities before you start
Having fun doesn’t always have to be expensive. There’s tons of things you can do for free. Not only will they keep you entertained, but they’ll also keep you busy. It’s easy to spend money when you’re bored. Keep yourself busy with decluttering and organising your home. If you’re feeling lazy, try reading a good book (that you already own or borrowed from the local library).
How much can you save with a spending freeze?
This depends on how long you’ll be freezing your spending for and how strict your spending freeze is. Since you’re more spendy than frugal, you’re in place to save a lot of money!
The more strict and prepared you are for your spending freeze, the more money you can save.
Most of my students save an average of $500 for a 2-week spending freeze and $1,000 if they make it through a month. I’ve seen the same results with my own spending freezes too.
How often should you do a spending freeze?
This is up to you. Think of a spending freeze as a booster shot to your savings. I don’t like needles, but they give you the good stuff! Do it as often as you need to so that you’re comfortable with your budget and confident in your ability to save money.
A spending freeze is a must if you’re behind on bills or your budget gets off track. Cut your budget down to the absolute bare minimum for as long as needed to give yourself a chance to catch up on your bills.
It’s also a great way to boost savings for vacations, birthdays, special events or your emergency fund. You can even throw your savings at debt and make extra debt payments (on top of your minimum payments). This will help you get out of debt faster.
And now, you’re totally ready for your first (or next!) successful spending freeze. Plan ahead and get clear on your goals. Know what you’re allowed to spend money on and how long you’ll be in a spending freeze for. Get your friends and family on board so they can keep you accountable. Keeping your goals top of mind will help you push through and get this thing done! Leave a comment below and let me know how long you’ll be freezing your spending and what you’re saving up for.